The world of technology can be a murky place, especially when it comes to all the tech jargon. When it comes to getting a new phone, you’ve most likely heard people tell you to get a LTE or 4G device.
What is LTE though? Is it the same as 4G?
The short answer is no. But networks love to use the two in conjunction with each other thereby further confusing everyone.
What is 4G?
The International Telecommunications Union-Radio (ITU-R) is the United Nations official agency for all manner of information and communication technologies, which decided on the specifications for the 4G standard in March 2008.
It decided that the peak download speeds for 4G should be 100Mbit/s for high mobility devices, such as when you're using a phone in a car or on a train.
When you're stationary, (low-mobility local wireless access) it decided that 4G should be able to deliver speeds up to around 1Gbit/s.
Unfortunately the ITU-R doesn’t have control over the implementation of the standard, which led to first- generation technologies like LTE being criticised for not being up to scratch with true 4G.
What is LTE?
Though originally marketed as 4G technology, LTE (Long Term Evolution) didn't satisfy the technical requirements that the ITU-R outlined, meaning that many early tariffs sold as 4G weren't actually 4G.
However due to marketing pressures and the significant advancements that LTE brings to original 3G technologies, the ITU later decided that LTE could be called 4G technology.
So, LTE is a first-generation 4G technology that should theoretically reach speeds of around 100Mbit/s.
As well as lacking in overall download speed, LTE also lacks uplink spectral efficiency and speed. Uplink spectral efficiency refers to the efficiency of the rate that data is uploaded and transmitted from your smartphone.
It falls short of the true 4G capacity mainly because of the lack of carrier aggregation and also phones not having many antennae. MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) is a practical technique for sending and receiving more than one data signal on the same channel at the same time by using more than one antenna.
With better carrier aggregation and MIMO, we can head towards a new standard: LTE Advanced. This is also known as 'true' 4G.
So What’s HSPA+?
HSPA+ may be marketed as 4G technology but it’s technically 3G. HSPA+ stands for High Speed Packet Access Plus.
The technology was developed with a theoretical top speed of 21Mb/s, which is pretty impressive for technology that doesn’t count as 4G (3G has an average speed of around 1Mb/s). However, it was quite a way away from its theoretical top speed as the average is around 4Mb/s.